Cancer that develops from melanocytes is called melanoma (other names: cutaneous melanoma, malignant melanoma)

Often, the first sign of melanoma is a change in the size, shape or color of an mole. Normally a nevus is a brown, dark or black mark on the skin. It can be flat or inclined and its shape can be round or oval. The nevi are usually small, less than 0.5 cm.

We know that ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is a risk factor that increases the chance of developing melanoma. People with red or blond hair, blue eyes and who are generally fair-skinned are more likely to develop melanoma. Blacks are less likely to develop the disease, apparently because they have more melanin in their skin that protects them. The risk of developing melanoma is higher in people with dysplastic nevi or a family history of melanoma or in those with large nevi (moles).

Early diagnosis and treatment is a rule in medicine and this is especially true for melanoma: The earlier it is diagnosed, the more likely a complete cure is. You should have your skin checked regularly and any change in the nevus or the appearance of a new one should lead you to your dermatologist. Especially those who already have a history of melanoma, should be examined regularly (every 3 - 6 months) for the possibility of recurrence.

How melanoma is treated

Most patients are treated surgically. The melanoma and a part of healthy skin around it are removed. Sometimes an implant is placed.

If the melanoma is at an early stage then surgical removal is sufficient and can offer a complete cure.

If the melanoma is at a more advanced stage then it may be necessary to check the lymph node metastases by making an additional resection in the area of the primary focus and checking for a "sentinel lymph node" by removing the neighboring lymph nodes.

Melanoma is a modern disease. Due to our lifestyle and excessive exposure to the harmful rays of the sun in the last 20 - 30 years there is an increase in the number of cases.